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is it better to do a degree in one subject or two?

(34 Posts)
ssd Sun 20-Mar-16 21:46:16

we never went to uni, before I start!!

ds going in spt, but unsure whether to do politics or politics and economics

whats the advantages/disadvantages of doing both of these, can anyone help?

is one subject easier or more intense, are two subjects better from a job prospectus?

ssd Sun 20-Mar-16 22:06:57


voilets Sun 20-Mar-16 22:45:06

My hunch is: do what he enjoys - he'll be more successful that way.

I can't give info on whether one or two subjects is better for employment prospects.

SwedishEdith Sun 20-Mar-16 22:52:00

Agree, do what you enjoy. PPE graduates seem to do ok.

bojorojo Sun 20-Mar-16 22:54:29

IT is always important to consider what the subjects are. Often two languages are better than one for example. In this case, Economics is favoured by some employers and I would say try for Politics and Economics. It keeps more doors open, demonstrates breadth, and Economics will mean studying Maths A level as well as maths within the Economics degree - a big plus. It is no coincidence that PPE is considered such a good degree (for politicians!)

Pollaidh Sun 20-Mar-16 22:54:33

Well Oxford's PPE course seems to turn out half the cabinet, at least, and that's 3 combined.

It really depends on the university (see above) and the subject (geology is generally worth more than, say, geology + geography as one is a proper science and one is a proper science + a humanities subject). If he had to take one, I'd recommend economics in terms of having a more respected subject that opens a wider range of jobs. However it depends what job he's thinking of, and what he enjoys.

Economics is more maths-based, and maths-based degrees are usually more highly regarded, even in non-science careers.

I swapped from a dual subject course to a single (science), because of the improved career prospects, but it was really tough for me as it meant most of my course was physics and maths, not my strong points. But it has opened doors that would have been closed otherwise, and I don't actually have to use much maths these days, so all is well.

What jobs?

bojorojo Sun 20-Mar-16 22:56:00

If he is going in September, does he have offers for both courses op? At the same or at different universities?

BikeRunSki Sun 20-Mar-16 22:57:51

I did Joint Honours in 2 complimentary subjects, because I loved them both! It had led me to s very niche career which I love.

One of my subjects had fewer exams than most though, by the nature of the subject.

MadameJosephine Sun 20-Mar-16 23:05:21

Is there potential to start with two and then drop one if it becomes too much? That's what I did when I was at university as the workload was too high and I figured it was better to get a higher grade in a single honours than flunk combined honours.

My DS is in his first year of a joint maths and computer science degree and his workload is crazy high but he seems to be thriving on it so although he could have done the same he has chosen to continue with joint honours he doesn't party like his mum did

rightsaidfrederickII Mon 21-Mar-16 00:03:20

If she is very interested in both subjects, then she should do both. If she's only really interested in one, then she should stick to that one.

They are very different subjects - politics is an essay based subject, whereas economics is very maths-based at university level - is she good at both? It's very hard to say if one subject is easier or harder than the other, as it depends on individual strengths and weaknesses, but neither is a soft subject.

Jobs-wise, there are no specific benefits to doing a joint honours degree, unless she wants to work in an area directly related to the subject she's thinking of dropping.

whatwouldrondo Mon 21-Mar-16 01:06:42

OP my DD is doing a joint honours as did I and we both experienced the same problems and benefits.

The workload is higher, there are often linking modules / projects tacked on and inter departmental communication isn't always the best so that deadlines may clash etc. DD had a problem that she was not allowed to write essays or answer exams on the same theoretical approaches for both subjects , which given the theoretical approaches can be quite broad did add to her workload and narrowed down her chance to answer questions that accorded with her special interests. It is better in the second year as her modules are more specialist.

However we both enjoyed the chance to explore the common ground between the subjects, disciplinary boundaries are quite artificial and human beings and science do not always stick to them, hence the increasing popularity of Liberal Arts / Natural Sciences / Area Studies degrees. PPE has of course been doing that for a long time . Joint honours is a half way house and will provide evidence of that sort of breadth, which is increasingly valued by academia, scientific research and employers.

A lot of employers are just looking for a good degree as evidence of intellectual skills, after that their main focus after that is on personal qualities, work and life experience etc. I can't say I have noticed Geography graduates having any worse a time of it with employers than say Geology students, quite the reverse. Getting a 2.1 is the main thing, studying what you enjoy and are good at is more likely to enable you to achieve that.

bojorojo Mon 21-Mar-16 17:42:46

I do think, rightsaidfrederick, that in this case, including Economics is the best plan. It is more of a sought after subject by employers. Therefore there is a benefit.

ssd Mon 21-Mar-16 20:45:00

TBH, I'm the one who suggested economics as I think it would be good to have, ds isn't mad keen on it although he did well in higher maths (Scotland), I just think economics opens more doors career wise, but I dont know if he really just wants to do politics alone and get a 2:1 in that hopefully.....I know its up to him and he'll make the choice, I just value others opinions

my gut is economics thrown in and a heavier workload might not suit him

he has to study 3 subjects in his first year (Scotland) then narrow it down to 2 (I think), am not too sure really, can anyone advise?

Sgoinneal Mon 21-Mar-16 20:51:23

Usually it's three subjects for years one and two, then choosing modules in one or two subjects for honours ssd- depending on uni of course.

I did joint honours and didn't regret it but it did feel like there were extra difficulties involved (sometimes as simple as clashing deadlines which the single honours students I was living with didn't have).

whatwouldrondo Tue 22-Mar-16 10:37:06

I can understand the perception about politics, it doesn't have as good a brand as other subjects (but by no means is it a soft subject ) but I am not sure it is justified in terms of employment. My experience on the graduate recruitment round as an interviewer is that a 2.1 degree in an academic subject, which politics is, is the starting point and then the focus is on finding the personal qualities /skills identified as required for your organisation. It is true some jobs would be looking for specialist expertise in Economics (as indeed some would in Marketing or Design or other vocational skills ) but then they would be looking for those who had specialised in Economics, and almost certainly taken it to Master's level.

If you are concerned about the brand is he interested in History? That is a traditionally well regarded academic subject that is a good fit with Politics, indeed the two courses often share modules anyway. However if he isn't I really don't think studying a subject he is not that interested in would be worth it in terms of improving employability.

ssd Wed 23-Mar-16 12:52:18

thanks, good advice here

tumbletumble Wed 23-Mar-16 13:05:36

I think a disadvantage of joint honours is that, as a student, you may feel less part of a community of learners as there won't be as many students doing your combination (except in rare cases such as PPE at Oxford as mentioned above).

disquit2 Wed 23-Mar-16 13:19:28

That's what I did when I was at university as the workload was too high and I figured it was better to get a higher grade in a single honours than flunk combined honours.

I find all the comments about workload a bit surprising: UK courses called x and y usually involve the same number of study credits as single subject courses. So studying x rather than x and y means that you do more of x, not that you study less overall.

I agree that in practice there can be some extra work involved in a two subject degree, since you may need to catch up on useful material from modules which single subject students took but you didn't. And I agree with the problems of clashing deadlines, being less a part of a community. However, the workload should not be immensely higher in a two subject degree. (It certainly isn't in the ones I have been involved with, but these are not politics/economics subjects.)

BikeRunSki Wed 23-Mar-16 15:52:58

When I did my Joint Honours degree (1992!):

X and Y = 2/3 modules of X degree + 2/3 modules of Y degree

X with Y = 2/3 modules of X degree + 1/3 modules of Y

disquit2 Wed 23-Mar-16 16:22:56

I agree that X and Y is different from X with Y. X and Y means equal split, while X with Y means mostly X.

But it is not true that X and Y has more modules (at least in my subjects maths, physics, engineering etc).

Indeed I'm not sure it would be allowed now: the standard rule is that you need 120 CATS (= 60 ECTS) for each undergraduate year to get a bachelors. I'm not sure the current accreditation rules would allow a requirement of more than 120 credits, while still awarding a bachelors degree.

Warwick do allow maths students to take more than 120 CATS voluntarily, with the extra credits used to improve the overall average score i.e. they award benefit for doing more than 120 CATS. But taking more than 120 is still voluntary, not required.

Googling certainly seems to suggest that Economics and Politics degrees at Exeter etc do only require 120 CATs per year as for single subject degrees.

whatwouldrondo Wed 23-Mar-16 18:14:00

disquiet I can't answer for Sciences but in Humanities you will get more crossover between modules on a single honours degree than a joint honours. It for instance may mean learning different theoretical approaches eg a Historian, a Politics academic and an Anthropologist may look at the same issue but have very different theoretical approaches. So a student may have to do more reading and work for each module ie to get the credits, if not more credit earning modules. That difference of approach is fairly obvious between Economics and Politics. In addition in the case of my DDs joint honours degree she is not even allowed to answer essay and exam questions that are asking about the theoretical approaches that are common eg Feminism so two lots of background reading on different approaches where similarities might have meant some common ground. In reading heavy subjects studying two disciplines gives less opportunity for your reading to be useful when you get to different parts of the course.

I don't know how the uni squares it in credit earning terms these days but both she and I, quite rightly, had interdisciplinary sessions to explore the areas of commonality and difference, for which you also needed to do the reading, and that ultimately I suppose will be credited via an interdisciplinary Dissertation. I don't know how that works in Liberal Arts degrees but certainly in Natural Sciences (other DD) there was an element of encouraging them to explore the interdisciplinary aspects of all their different modules, and in the first year that would be in several different pathways, and even after further specialisation they were encouraged in their work to take advantage of the breadth of their study. It was acknowledged as a work heavy course.

Pollaidh Wed 23-Mar-16 19:17:09

Geology/Geography joint honours involves taking half your units from geology and half from geography, which means you have only half a science degree at the end. In addition timetables may be arranged so that the geology classes which avoid timetable conflict are those likely to be more popular with geography folk - less maths, less physics.

bojorojo Wed 23-Mar-16 20:25:09

I think joint honours MFL is more than 50% of each regarding teaching time but no dissertation for either for my DD. I think universities differ.

disquit2 Wed 23-Mar-16 20:49:53

But again for MFL you still do 120 CATs, whether you do single language or multiple languages or language and another subject - you can easily check this on university websites. So there might be a little more teaching time but the CATs (which imply total study requirements) will not be higher - universities are not allowed to differ on this.

OP is interested in politics and economics, but other posters have commented about combinations such as maths and computer science, which in my experience are not harder than maths or computer science on their own. However, the workload of both subjects comes as a shock to many students who breezed through A levels with little work. Students do sometimes ask to drop back to one subject but this rarely makes their workload feel much lighter.

Eustace2016 Wed 23-Mar-16 21:03:59

For the best jobs you need the best universities and the best degree you can. So do whatever will get you that. Certainly PPE at Oxford is fine but I think for lots of other joint honours it means a lot of extra work which might mean you get worse results and so fewer job choices so might be better to stick to one subject. also if you might have to do 4 year not 3 that is very very expensive these days.

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